Points of Ponderation…..Episode 3.15

A semi-regular attempt to address some of life’s minutiae that might otherwise be overlooked…..

 

 

 

 
mockingbirdSeveral months ago, when it was announced that To Kill A Mockingbird author Harper Lee would be publishing a 2nd novel a half century after her one & only triumphant effort in literature, I was ecstatic. Mockingbird is one of my favorite books, as it is for countless others. However, the book is out and I haven’t purchased a copy…and I don’t intend to in the future. In the time between the initial announcement and the appearance of Go Set A Watchman in bookstores a few things came to light. First of all, Harper Lee is nearly 90 years old, in poor health, & residing in a nursing home. There is some concern that a shady lawyer made this book deal happen, that Ms. Lee doesn’t have the mental capacity to have made the decision for it to be published, & that if she had wanted it published she would have done so decades ago. Adult Protective Services in Alabama allegedly investigated the situation and weren’t at all concerned, but I’m still a bit apprehensive. The book is now out there being consumed by the masses, and I have read some reviews. It turns out that Watchman…though it is being billed as a sequel to Mockingbird…was actually the original idea, and a gifted editor basically told Harper Lee “This doesn’t work, but there is an idea within it that will be good if you revise & cultivate it” (or something to that effect). That modification grew into To Kill A Mockingbird. Now, why in the world would I waste my time with something that an editor didn’t feel good about in the first place, something that evolved into one of our greatest novels only after a major renovation?? Why would I pay money for something that very well could be the result of elder abuse?? And then there is the matter of Atticus Finch…one of the most beloved characters in all of literature. I’ve watchmanseen spoilers. I know what the Atticus in Watchman is compared to the treasured Atticus in Mockingbird. Some may see it as a fascinating and maybe even logical evolution. That’s fine, but I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life. That’s the great thing about fiction…characters we love can stay frozen in time, always fondly remembered the way we left them. Sherlock Holmes will forever be riding hansom cabs & solving crimes in gaslit London. Santa Claus will always fly thru the air in his sleigh every Christmas Eve. Huck Finn & Tom Sawyer are still riding down the mighty Mississippi on a raft getting into mischief. And in my heart Atticus Finch will remain a man of deep character & unshakable honor fighting for the rights of the oppressed and teaching his children valuable life lessons.

 

 

lionI honestly couldn’t care less about lions or other big game being killed in Africa. It never ceases to amaze me what the media is able to manipulate people into stressing out about. I saw a story a few days ago about some 21 year old kid who buried his dog alive, and that incensed me way more than any situation in which a hunter bagged some prey. FYI the dog was thankfully rescued.

 

 

Let’s talk about baby names. No, I have not impregnated anyone and probably never will…unfortunately. A babiesFacebook acquaintance of mine is pregnant and recently asked for some ideas for names for her baby boy. I guess I’m a bit old-fashioned because I was truly stunned by some of the suggestions: Alonte, Killian, Easton, Boston, Ledger, Zade, Phoenix, Malice, Beckham, Canyon, Courtland, Maxim, Savon. These were (allegedly) serious responses and not ideas for an American Gladiators revival. Look, I understand gravitating toward less common names. The world is full of guys named Mike, John, Bob, Steve, Tom, Jerry, George, & Fred. I get it. But whatever name you saddle a child with is a burden that they’re going to have to carry for the rest of their lives. Legitimate studies have been done linking weird baby names to criminal behavior later on in life, and that’s not even counting the bullying a kid may suffer or the confidence & image issues they may have along the way. I apologize in advance if my opinion hurts the feelings of anyone with one of these odd names or parents who may have named their child something a bit outside-the-box. It isn’t my intention to offend. I just think that the world is tough enough and a person will encounter more than their fair share of adversity in the normal course of things…why start them off behind the proverbial 8-ball with a name that isn’t nearly as cool or hip as some may think it is??

 

 

gop2First impressions after the initial GOP Presidential debate:
• Donald Trump is style over substance. He’s entertaining and says what a lot of people would like to say & what many believe, but at the end of the day he doesn’t have the temperament, finesse, or applicable experience needed to be President.
• Marco Rubio & Ben Carson strike me as solid potential VP choices. Their stock could improve.
• Mike Huckabee is sincere, intelligent, & articulate…but not Presidential material. He could be a good cabinet member.
• If the GOP nominates Jeb Bush or Chris Christie it won’t play well with hardcore conservatives, a detriment that won’t be equalized with support from Reagan Democrats.
• Rand Paul is passionate, thinks outside the box, & brings some interesting ideas to the table, but I don’t see him as Presidential either at this point. I’m flexible though.
• I didn’t watch the undercard debate, but I hear that Carly Fiorina did well. Hopefully a few of those folks get an opportunity to make their case at the big table the next time around.
• Ted Cruz is my frontrunner, but Scott Walker has tremendous potential.
• Oh yeah…John Kasich was there too. I almost forgot. I’m not sure his campaign will make it to September.
• I wasn’t impressed with Fox News’ presentation or the performance of their moderators.
• This race doesn’t truly begin until the field is cut in half. That may take awhile.

 

 

My physician recently put me on a low dose of blood pressure medication and indicated that meds for high sodiumcholesterol could follow. I have 6 weeks to alter my lifestyle, and he suggested a website/app called MyFitnessPal to help track my dietary habits. In just a week I’ve already figured something out. I’ve been trying to eat low fat for awhile because I kind of saw these issues on the horizon, but one thing I’ve been overlooking is sodium. I am single, financially challenged, & can sometimes be lazy, which means I look for quick & easy eating choices. I am aware that fast food is mostly unhealthy, but in focusing on fat we shouldn’t ignore the contribution sodium makes to poor health. I have been paying more attention to such things and have been truly surprised at the enormous sodium content of a lot of foods. Pretty much anything that is prepackaged for our convenience is a minefield. Fruits & veggies have never been a big enough part of my diet, but going forward they’re going to have to be. That doesn’t mean I’ll never eat another cheeseburger, piece of chocolate cake, or bowl of pasta…it simply means that one should always partake in moderation.

To Kill A Mockingbird

It has been said that everyone has a book inside them. I’m not sure who said it, and I don’t know if it is all that true, though I have always felt it to be so for me. Of course we live in a world now where lots of folks want to be famous, and even more want to be rich, and therefore they are always looking for ways to make that happen. I suppose writing a book is just as good of an option as any, and maybe even better than most (for example doing “reality TV” or making a sex tape). However, there are a couple of perils. First of all, our bookstores become polluted with crap that it is difficult to believe was ever published in the first place (much like the plethora of asinine television shows & movies that should have never been greenlighted). Secondly, authors who achieve success right out of the gate are encouraged to write more, oftentimes with specious results. Sometimes it really is better to quit while you are ahead.

 

In the annals of one hit wonders I think most folks would agree that author Harper Lee ranks right up there with Soft Cell, Mark Hamill, John Adams, and Dexys Midnight Runners. I am tempted to say that it is a shame that she only wrote one novel, but when that one novel is the Pulitzer Prize winning To Kill A Mockingbird then there is really nothing left to prove and nowhere to go but downhill.

 

Though they really aren’t all that similar it occurs to me that Mockingbird and the previous novel we examined…Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine…have a few things in common. They both take place in the same general era…Mockingbird in the mid-1930’s in the midst of The Great Depression, Dandelion Wine in 1928 just before the Depression. Both are set in a sleepy small town, the kind that we wax nostalgic about in 21st century America. And both have children as the main protagonists, allowing the story to be told thru the eyes of a child and therefore necessitating an accessible writing style without sacrificing literary elegance. But the comparisons end there.

 

To Kill A Mockingbird is an unflinching look at racism in the early 20th century, and though it is at times uncomfortable (especially when observed thru the politically correct prism that has almost become the standard in modern times) there is such an easygoing innocence from the point-of-view of the narrator that the rough edges seem much more palatable.

 

The story is about the Finch family in Maycomb, Alabama. There is the narrator…9 year old Jean Louise, nicknamed Scout…her older brother Jem…and their widowed father Atticus, a wise, even-tempered lawyer with a strong sense of morality. Scout & Jem spend their days in school and their evenings & summertime playing and hanging out with a neighbor boy named Dill. Scout, Jem, & Dill become obsessed with a reclusive neighbor named Boo Radley who for many years has been the subject of rumors painting him as some kind of freaky monster and hasn’t been seen by anyone since he was a teenager. Meanwhile, Atticus takes on the case of Tom Robinson, a poor black man accused of raping his white female neighbor Mayella Ewell. Robinson’s trial is a major event in Maycomb, and it exposes the children to the racist outlook of a town that they had heretofore only known to be filled with friendly neighbors & schoolmates. Eventually the two storylines intersect, although if you want to know how you’ll just have to read the book.

 

To Kill A Mockingbird is an important book. I wouldn’t hesitate to place it in the mix with The Constitution, The Declaration of Independence, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the works of Shakespeare & Dickens, and The Holy Bible as one of the most significant things ever written. That will sound like hyperbole only to those who have not had the pleasure of reading it. It embodies a time, a place, and an attitude that we still haven’t completely laid to rest. Yes we have made remarkable strides, but we cannot truthfully say that racism no longer exists. They may be fewer in number, but there are still people with an “us and them” outlook. The difference between now & then is that we are fully aware that it is wrong. To a certain extent the racism in Mockingbird is portrayed in such a matter-of-fact way that we can conclude that many folks back then didn’t realize how wrong they were. It was the way it was. There was a hierarchy and everyone had their place and played their proper role in society. Even the ethical hero of the book Atticus Finch employs a black housekeeper, something that we see today as a racial stereotype. When reading a story like this we are forced to confront our own views and one wonders how various people have been impacted as society has evolved over the past few decades.

 

I would be remiss if I did not mention the fantastic 1962 film based on the book and starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch. Like most movies based on books there are some minor characters left out and substantial subplots that are shortchanged or eliminated, but overall it is a faithful adaptation and quality production.  As usual in these cases I strongly caution against skipping the book in favor of just watching the movie. The book is an almost breezy read, which is surprising given its gravitas. If you haven’t read it you really should. God knows it’s better than watching The Bachelor or anything starring a Kardashian.